NASA wants to help commercial passengers get from New York to London in less time than it takes to watch the average in-flight movie.

America’s space agency announced this week that it has been exploring ‘the business case for supersonic passenger air travel.’

If these preliminary studies show promise, the craft will rocket across the Atlantic at blistering speeds between Mach 2 and Mach 4, or from roughly 1,535 to 3,045 miles per hour (mph) — over twice as fast as an F/A-18 fighter’s top speed of Mach 1.8.

According to NASA, the next phase of its high-speed air travel research is now underway: two 12-month contracts granted to Boeing, Rolls-Royce and others to help conceptualize the new jet and build a ‘technology roadmap.’

Earlier this summer, NASA completed its X-59 quiet supersonic test aircraft, which is designed to muffle its own sonic booms; the program that will serve as an inspiration for the new jet project. 

The X-59 is scheduled to have its first test flight later this year

The world's current fastest passenger jet, the French- and British-made Concorde (right) made its best flight between New York and London on February 7, 1996, crossing the Atlantic in just 2 hours 52 minutes and 59 seconds. NASA (top left) hopes to cut that flight time nearly in half

The world's current fastest passenger jet, the French- and British-made Concorde (right) made its best flight between New York and London on February 7, 1996, crossing the Atlantic in just 2 hours 52 minutes and 59 seconds. NASA (top left) hopes to cut that flight time nearly in half

The world’s current fastest passenger jet, the French- and British-made Concorde (right) made its best flight between New York and London on February 7, 1996, crossing the Atlantic in just 2 hours 52 minutes and 59 seconds. NASA (top left) hopes to cut that flight time nearly in half

The X-59 (above), dubbed the 'son of Concorde,' is designed to travel at speeds of up to 925mph. The small test plane could allow fly from London to New York in under four hours

The X-59 (above), dubbed the 'son of Concorde,' is designed to travel at speeds of up to 925mph. The small test plane could allow fly from London to New York in under four hours

The X-59 (above), dubbed the ‘son of Concorde,’ is designed to travel at speeds of up to 925mph. The small test plane could allow fly from London to New York in under four hours

HOW WILL NASA ELIMINATE SONIC BOOMS? 

In a conventional supersonic aircraft, shockwaves from the nose, cockpit, inlets, wings and other features come together as they move through the atmosphere into strong shocks emanating from the nose and tail.

These are known as bow and tail shocks, respectively.

As these shockwaves pass over the ground, air pressure rises sharply, declines, then rises rapidly again. It’s this that produces the classic ‘double-bang’ sonic boom.

Reshaping the aircraft to produce a longer, more slender shape is the best way to generate shockwaves of lower, more equal strength that do not form into such strong bow and tail shocks.

NASA and other organisations are working on creating shapes to reduce sonic booms.

Stretching the nose to break the bow shock into a series of weaker shockwaves is particularly effective.

This lowers and spreads that initial pressure peak and softens the first bang of the sonic boom.

 

<!—->

Advertisement

‘NASA is just at the early, exploratory stages of research,’ agency spokesperson Rob Margetta told the DailyMail.com, ‘and is not developing such aircraft.’ At least, not yet.

The world’s current fastest passenger jet, the French- and British-made Concorde made its fasted flight between New York and London on February 7, 1996, crossing the Atlantic in just 2 hours 52 minutes and 59 seconds.

For comparison’s sake, the standard large airliner today flies at a cruising speed of about 600 mph, under Mach 1 at roughly 80 percent of the speed of sound.

These jets can take 5 hours or more to make the 3461-mile trek from New York to London.

The Concorde, by contrast, enjoys a maximum cruising speed of 1,354 mph or Mach 2.04. 

But Concorde jets were retired in 2003 following a downturn in the commercial aviation industry and the widely publicized first-ever and only crash of a Concorde in 2000.

NASA hopes to cut even the zippy Concorde’s flight time nearly in half.

In its press statement, NASA said they hoped to see flights from New York City to London accelerate ‘up to four times faster than what’s currently possible.’

From their business analysis, the agency believes that there are potential passenger markets in as many as 50 established routes connecting various cities, focusing on ocean-crossing flights first to minimize regulatory hurdles.

According to the manager of NASA’s Hypersonic Technology Project, Mary Jo Long-Davis, the two 12-month contracts exploring the feasibility of a supersonic passenger jet will likely focus on reducing noise during takeoff and landing at first, leaving any issues with mid-flight sonic booms until later.

Both the United States and many other nations prohibit over-land supersonic flights, citing noise pollution from sonic booms and other issues.

High-altitude emissions and other environmental factors, Long-Davis told tech site The Register, are the critical starting concerns for their new project. 

‘We are also collectively conscious of the need to account for safety, efficiency, economic, and societal considerations,’ Long-Davis expanded further in her NASA statement.

‘It’s important to innovate responsibly so we return benefits to travelers and do no harm to the environment.’

NASA announced this week that it has been exploring 'the business case for supersonic passenger air travel' — promising blistering speeds between Mach 2 and Mach 4, or roughly 1,535 to 3,045 mph. Above, a mock-up of NASA's X-59, with its estimated top speed of Mach 1.4

NASA announced this week that it has been exploring 'the business case for supersonic passenger air travel' — promising blistering speeds between Mach 2 and Mach 4, or roughly 1,535 to 3,045 mph. Above, a mock-up of NASA's X-59, with its estimated top speed of Mach 1.4

NASA announced this week that it has been exploring ‘the business case for supersonic passenger air travel’ — promising blistering speeds between Mach 2 and Mach 4, or roughly 1,535 to 3,045 mph. Above, a mock-up of NASA’s X-59, with its estimated top speed of Mach 1.4

A Concorde passenger jet (above) has a maximum cruising speed of 1,354 mph, or Mach 2.04

A Concorde passenger jet (above) has a maximum cruising speed of 1,354 mph, or Mach 2.04

A Concorde passenger jet (above) has a maximum cruising speed of 1,354 mph, or Mach 2.04

NASA’s Advanced Air Vehicles Program (AAVP) will oversee the two new contracts which will produce tech roadmaps detailing supersonic air travel options, risks and challenges, as well as the innovations necessary to achieve ‘Mach 2-plus travel.’

‘The design concepts and technology roadmaps are really important to have in our hands when the companies are finished,’ Long-Davis at NASA said. 

Aerospace giant Boeing will lead the first team, managing partners including Exosonic, GE Aerospace, Georgia Tech Aerospace Systems Design Laboratory and Rolls-Royce North American Technologies.

Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems will lead the second contracted team, overseeing partners Blue Ridge Research and Consulting, Boom Supersonic and Rolls-Royce North American Technologies, who is participating on both teams.

Both teams will be tasked with designing concepts for the passenger jet’s airframe, its power system, propulsion methods, heat exhaust and heat friction management, and the lightweight-but-tough composite materials employed. 

These technology roadmaps will also create non-proprietary, meaning public domain, designs for hard-flying concept vehicles.

‘We conducted similar concept studies over a decade ago at Mach 1.6-1.8, and those resulting roadmaps helped guide NASA research efforts since, including those leading to the X-59,’ Lori Ozoroski, the project manager for NASA’s Commercial Supersonic Technology Project, said in a press statement. 

‘These new studies will both refresh those looks at technology roadmaps and identify additional research needs for a broader high-speed range.’ 

The public-private collaboration will be reminiscent of NASA’s QueSST mission, which led to the sonic boom-reducing X-59 test craft, made in partnership with defense contractor Lockheed Martin.

QueSST and the X-59 have an ongoing mandate to supply experimental data to federal regulators that would help change the rules barring overland supersonic flights, by proving that those flights can be quieter and meet other legal standards.

Once these contracts are concluded, according to NASA, the space agency and its partners in both industry and academia will then assess independently whether or not to continue the research with their own funding.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF CONCORDE: THE FIRST COMMERCIAL SUPERSONIC JET

Concorde was a turbojet-powered supersonic passenger jet that was operated until 2003. 

It had a maximum speed over twice the speed of sound at Mach 2.04 (1,354 mph or 2,180 k per hour at cruise altitude) and could seat 92 to 128 passengers.

It was first flown in 1969, but needed further tests to establish it as viable as a commercial aircraft.

Concorde entered service in 1976 and continued flying for the next 27 years. 

It is one of only two supersonic transports to have been operated commercially. 

The other is the Soviet-built Tupolev Tu-144, which ran for a much shorter period of time before it was grounded and retired due to safety and budget issues.

Concorde was a turbojet-powered supersonic passenger jet that was operated until 2003. It had a maximum speed over twice the speed of sound at Mach 2.04 (1,354 mph or 2,180 k per hour at cruise altitude) and could seat 92 to 128 passengers

Concorde was a turbojet-powered supersonic passenger jet that was operated until 2003. It had a maximum speed over twice the speed of sound at Mach 2.04 (1,354 mph or 2,180 k per hour at cruise altitude) and could seat 92 to 128 passengers

Concorde was a turbojet-powered supersonic passenger jet that was operated until 2003. It had a maximum speed over twice the speed of sound at Mach 2.04 (1,354 mph or 2,180 k per hour at cruise altitude) and could seat 92 to 128 passengers

Concorde was jointly developed and manufactured by Aérospatiale and the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) under an Anglo-French treaty. 

Concorde’s name, meaning harmony or union, reflects the cooperation on the project between the United Kingdom and France. 

In the UK, any or all of the type are known simply as ‘Concorde’, without an article. 

Twenty aircraft were built including six prototypes and development aircraft.

Air France (AF) and British Airways (BA) each received seven aircraft. 

The research and development failed to make a profit and the two airlines bought the aircraft at a huge discount.

Among other destinations, Concorde flew regular transatlantic flights from London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to New York-JFK, Washington Dulles and Barbados.

It flew these routes in less than half the time of other airliners. 

Over time, the aircraft became profitable when it found a customer base willing to pay for flights on what was for most of its career the fastest commercial airliner in the world.

The aircraft is regarded by many as an aviation icon and an engineering marvel, but it was also criticized for being uneconomical, lacking a credible market, and consuming more fuel to carry fewer passengers than a Boeing 747.

Concorde was retired in 2003 due to a general downturn in the commercial aviation industry after the type’s only crash in 2000, the September 11 attacks in 2001, and a decision by Airbus, the successor to Aérospatiale and BAC, to discontinue maintenance support.

This post first appeared on Dailymail.co.uk

You May Also Like

Chinese Spies Infected Dozens of Networks With Thumb Drive Malware

For much of the cybersecurity industry, malware spread via USB drives represents…

Gene Expression in Neurons Solves a Brain Evolution Puzzle

The neocortex stands out as a stunning achievement of biological evolution. All…

70 Absolute Best October Prime Day Deals (2023)

Amazon Prime Day Part II is here, and that means a fresh…

NASA reveals the winning shots from its Photographer of the Year awards 

NASA has revealed the winning shots from its fourth annual Photographer of…